What are Programmes of Study?

Programmes of study for schools in England were introduced for national curriculum subjects by the Education Reform Act (1988). They set out what pupils should be taught at each key stage. They have remained a feature of all revisions of the national curriculum.  The current national curriculum dates from 2014.

Many agreed syllabuses have copied the layout of the national curriculum by including programmes of study and attainment targets.

The Big Ideas Programmes of Study for RE follow the format of those for the History national curriculum (England) and draw directly for their content on the two publications on Big Ideas for RE, as follows:

The programmes of study and the Big Ideas project

Every element of these programmes of study are based on the principles of Big Ideas, as set out in the two key publications, as follows:


    BIRE2017 p.4 Principles of RE


    BIIP2022 Chapter 2


    BIIP2022 Chapter 6

    Using the programmes of study

    These programmes of study are likely to be used by:

    • Syllabus writers e.g. agreed syllabus conferences and diocesan education boards, who may incorporate them with or without changes. For further information see ‘Develop your own Big Ideas for RE Curriculum’.
    • Teachers with responsibility for RE in their school, who will normally follow the programmes of study in their own designated syllabus, particularly for long and medium-term planning, but may wish to use Big Ideas to focus pupils’ learning.

    A guide on How to use Big Ideas alongside an existing RE Syllabus or Programme of Study may also be found in BIRE2017 pp. 25-26.